Always twist

I like to take a crack at new things. Sports activities especially.

I started running with my sister. We went from two-three kilometre distances to 10k’s, half marathons and finally, two full marathons. Until no more.

There were the initial attempts at practicing yoga. During a trip to Australia, we spent our early mornings being stretched and constrained into asanas with all kinds of props imaginable. Cushions, blocks, straps, sand bags, benches and chairs. For us two, it turned more into laughter yoga. With disapproving looks from the very serious teacher, of course. Iyengar Yoga is no laughing matter. It was good to find Ashtanga, Bikram and Flow Yoga styles later on to understand the whole uniting the body, mind and spirit thing. Kind of.

I’ve also done my share of the life in the slow lane. First aqua running. Or perhaps it’s aqua jogging? The kind where you fasten an uncomfortable floatation belt around your waist before jumping into the pool. And you run laps, without your feet touching the pool floor. Very low-impact. It sounds easy enough, but trust me, there are many unspoken rules, hierarchy and etiquette on those slow lanes. No parallel running! You get told off immediately.

My friend and I quickly moved onto swimming. With some lessons in under-water breathing, breast stroke and finally freestyle, we could move onto open waters. Out of the reach of the aqua joggers’ long-established routines. A whole new world opened to us. New friendships blossomed and the Swim Chick movement was initiated. Even if it meant going to work with circles around your eyes. From the goggles, of course. No late-night partying for this bunch, right?

And today it’s all about SUP for me. Ever since I saw a stand-up paddle boarder in Hawaii, I wanted to try it. Forget the image of the tanned young surfer with a lean, chiselled physique! It was actually a lone old guy with a big belly that I saw at the beach one day. He walked towards the waterline with this huge longboard type surfing board and a long paddle. Looking at him and then the big waves hitting the sandy beach, I was instantly amused. But when he gracefully got onto the board, stood up on it and paddled grandly on top of the waves, I was sold. So regal. So peaceful.

These days the hubby and I are all geared up to go on the water. We have our inflatable SUP boards, 3-piece travel paddles, leashes and various other equipment. And last week, we finally got a chance to improve our  paddling technique. Wade taught us how to paddle more efficiently and powerfully. It sounded very simple.

For a proper forward stroke, we should stand feet shoulder-width apart, legs relaxed and twist our bodies to get power from our cores instead of arms. Then reach, reach some more, aiming for the nose of the board. “You can reach much further”, Wade said to me. I got it, when he explained that I’m losing twenty centimetres on each stroke. Five strokes and I’m a metre behind.  Unless I increase my stroke rate exponentially. I don’t want to be paddling hysterically, so I’ll work on that reach thing for sure. He then advised us to stab the paddle blade vertically into the water, push down and pull our board through to the paddle. What? Well, try it. There’s a definite difference to pulling the blade to your feet. Finally, there’s the recovery. Take the blade out of the water by twisting forward on the lower hand, feathering the blade and repeating from the beginning.

Depending on the conditions, we may have to compromise a bit. However, Wade said “Always twist”. Like in yoga, “Always breathe”. I just love those simple one-line principles. What would be the appropriate one-line instruction to life in general? A quote from Captain Greg on a sailing trip last week, “The difference between an ordeal and adventure is attitude”, is actually not bad.

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